Reviewer: Charity Bishop
There's something rotten in the state of Denmark... and it happens to be the king! Young, vivacious Christian (Mikkel Boe Følsgaard) is thought mad by many of his contemporaries. His new wife Caroline (Alicia Vikander) is more uncertain of him, but it doesn't take her long to dislike him! His radical behavior sets tongues to wagging, his womanizing offends her, and he can't seem to keep his opinions to himself! Christian embarks on a tour of Europe that comes to an abrupt end in Germany when his "illness" prevents him from further travels. There, he meets an ambitious physician named Johann (Mads Mikkelsen), who quickly befriends the monarch and soon becomes his most valuable resource at court.
Before long, Caroline is as enamored with her husband's favorite as he is... and Johann sees an opportunity to expand his radical, Enlightenment-driven ideas. What results is a scandal that shocks Denmark, leads to a coo, and reminds us that foreign films can be just as good (if not better) than their American counterparts. Every penny of the reported eight million dollars that went into this production shines on-screen, from the terrific cast and understated musical score to the gorgeous costumes. The script is surprisingly good, resonating with humor, empathy, and just the right amount of shocking behavior. Though morally we may object to the behavior of these people, somehow we become fond of them -- even the insipid monarch!
Admittedly, while I didn't see much crackling chemistry between these costars, it doesn't much matter when you're working with such decent material. Films run wild with English history and the occasional foray into French politics, but it's rare we find a story set in this era, much less somewhere like Denmark. True, it could deal with fewer sex scenes (although most are handled with reasonable taste) and the fact that it revolves around an adulterous affair might throw off some audiences, but it's a refreshing change from the norm. The historical accuracy isn't bad, but audiences should be aware that Enlightenment ideals run rampant throughout -- that God and faith are restrictive and hamper society from its full potential, and morality has no place in an enlightened mind.
If nothing else, it made me curious about Denmark and its monarchy, as well as the years-long aftermath of the affair, which was a love affair between a man and a woman, a set of people and their modern ideals, and two men engaged in a genuine friendship. If you can make it through the last half without spitting nails at the injustice of political abuse, maneuvering, and manipulation, you're made of stronger stuff than I.
Three sex scenes (with movement and a woman's bare back, shoulders); a man puts his wife's hand down the front of his pants and moves it around; he climbs on top of her and she cries out and pushes him off; a puppet has bare breasts; a pamphlet includes a crude drawing of a man touching a woman between the legs.
Minor profanities and uses of s--t.
A man is brutally punched in prison; we see him later frightened and covered in blood and bruises; mention of torture; a man is found having been tortured to death and left to die; blood covers the steps of a platform where a man is led to be executed; a man throws a woman to the ground and forcefully rubs snow into her face.
Extra-marital affairs, and references to how religion is polluting and stopping society from self-improvement.